CROLL, Oswald


CROLL, Oswald. Basilica Chymica

Cologne, apud Ioannem Celerium, 1624


8vo. 2 parts in 1, half-title to second, pp. (xl) 364 (lx); (xiv) 92 (xxxviii). Roman letter, little Italic. Interesting printer’s woodcut device to first t-p, 2 woodcuts of alchemical instruments, decorated initials and ornaments. Outer margin of first t-p a little finger-soiled, varying degrees of browning or dampstaining (paper poorly dried), heavier from O onwards small oil stain to outer edge of B-D8, rust stain to V1 verso, minor marginal foxing or spotting in places, heavy ink annotation to one leaf. A perfectly acceptable copy in later half sheep over marbled boards, spine gilt, a.e.r., joints cracked, minor loss at foot and a couple of small repairs, corners scuffed and a bit bumped.

A perfectly acceptable copy of this rare, posthumous collected edition of two very influential alchemical works. Oswald Croll (1563-1609), professor at Marburg and a follower of Hermetic philosophy, was a major supporter of Paracelsian views on the difference between chemistry and alchemy, and on the importance of chemistry as ancillary to medicine. First published in 1608, ‘Basilica Chymica’ begins with a long ‘prefatio admonitoria’. First, it explains the essence of ‘true medicine’, which can only be practiced using the ‘book of nature’, including planetary influence, and with good knowledge of the natural elements (the ‘spagyric’ art). Second, it illustrates how and why sickness occurs, with references to important Paracelsian theories such as that of ‘tartarus’ (dried salt accumulating in the body as a result of digestion). The core of ‘Basilica Chymica’ discusses how illnesses (including syphilis or ‘morbus gallicus’, epilepsy and the plague) can be ‘expelled’, with instructions and doses for chemical remedies such as vitriol, mercury, antimony, salniter, cinnamon oil, mumia, cordials and balsams. It focuses on their curative properties as, for instance, ‘odorifera’ (healing through their smell), and illustrates two kinds of Paracelsian ‘zenexton’, an amulet worn against the plague. The second part—‘De signaturis internis rerum’—was originally published separately in 1609. It is a study of the Galenic doctrine of signatures, i.e., how herbs which look like specific body parts can be used to treat ailments in those parts. After a theoretical introduction, the works is organised in sections on individual illnesses or kinds thereof, from scrofula to menstruation pain and poisonous bites, listing for each the most important herbal remedies. The early annotator was most probably a physician. In the first part, he highlighted passages on ‘flowers of sulphur’ (powder produced through sublimation) and the effects of Paracelsus’s ‘unguentum sympatheticum seu stellatum’; in the second, he circled a passage on how ‘nothing can be found in nature which cannot be useful in medicine’. A major work in the history of medical chemistry.

Only Penn copy recorded in the US. Caillet, Ferguson, Bib. Chemica, BL STC Ger. C17 and Bib. Esoterica only list earlier or later editions.
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